Does Responsive Design = Improved Customer Experience?

Post by Sirha Marinoff, Media Manager, with insights from Andrea Mann, Media Director

How many times have you found yourself looking at your mobile device, trying to figure out why half of the content is missing, and silently cursing at the world?

In today’s society, where mobile phones have become high-tech phenomenon and tablets and “phablets” are taking the market by storm, people are increasingly resorting to searching, engaging and shopping on mobile devices vs. desktop.  And while shopping on-the-go, consumers are expecting an easy-to-navigate, appropriately functioning mobile experience so they can seamlessly conduct research or complete transactions.

Marketers have noticed this trend and are responding to the dilemma of ill-formatted content across multiple platforms by opting into responsive design to create a more consistent web experience for their consumers. This development also makes life a whole lot easier for technology teams, thanks to a more manageable web presence.

Even though responsive design is by no means a new discovery, companies still question whether it will foster user experience or take away the “USP” (ability to customize content by device). We have all seen more elaborate website specimens that cannot possibly be squeezed into a tablet, let alone a mobile-friendly experience. Thus, by employing responsive design, advertisers agree to practice constraint and be more conservative when designing web content that’s meant to translate across platforms.  But this sacrifice often doesn’t come easy.

Benefits of Responsive Design

  1. Cross-Device

Consumers are shopping across multiple devices—perhaps beginning research on an iPhone during their morning commute, and completing the purchase via desktop when they arrive at work. Responsive design websites provide a seamless cross-device experience, creating a sense of familiarity that enables the consumer to easily pick-up exactly where they left off. In contrast, a company may create a separate mobile site that offers a completely different design and provides varying (and often more limited) functionality than their desktop site, which will likely confuse or frustrate the consumer as they transition between devices.

While some aspect of tailored content by device may disappear with responsive design, this is likely outweighed by increased user engagement on account of directing consumers to more relevant content and exposing them to a more consistent message across devices.

  1. User Experience

It’s a common misconception that searchers prefer less content when browsing on mobile. Thus, companies often opt to create a slimmed-down mobile site, rather than a responsive design site. However, in a mobile ecommerce usability test, Baymard Institute observed that “a limited set of content leads to endless misunderstandings, poor shopping experiences and abandonments.” Responsive design provides consumers with all of the site’s content in a format best suited for the device’s screen size.

  1. Manageability

Having worked with clients who utilize mobile-specific landing pages and responsive design, we can count ourselves as responsive design enthusiasts. Anyone who has recently undergone the Google URL migration and dealt with anchor tags will understand the benefits of mobile-specific landing pages. Naturally, not all advertisers have the “#, hash bang, anchor tag” (and whatever else we can call it) issue, but we like responsive design for a variety of manageability reasons. First, there will hopefully no longer be any disapproved ads due to an invalid HTTP response that results from merging invalid characters with search management platform (e.g. Marin) appended tracking per Google’s response. Second, content will become more manageable, saving us hours of bulksheet preparation to accommodate all possible URL variations. Last, we’ll finally be able to deep link content again and improve quality scores.

  1. Return on Investment

A responsive design site may be a larger investment upfront and may take longer to develop. But, it will ultimately prove to be more cost-effective than managing two separate sites for mobile and desktop (and maybe even a third site for tablet). A responsive site will only have one domain and all content updates are made using the same content management system. This creates a more streamlined maintenance process and also ensures that there’s not inconsistent content across devices. For example, let’s say your company makes an update to its return policy. With a responsive design site, that change could be updated on one platform, and it would automatically be reflected across all devices.

It goes without saying that responsive design doesn’t work for all businesses, but its benefits are likely worth the effort for most brands.

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